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Exodus threat in Bangla pact

India is concerned that the pro-Islamic leanings of the alliance will raise security concerns, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2006 03:09 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

Not only the Indian government, but minority communities, who are the traditional supporters of the Awami League (AL), are concerned about how the newly-formed alliance between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Khelafat -e-Majlish would alter the political equation in the country.

India is concerned that the pro-Islamic fundamentalist leanings of the 14-party alliance headed by the League would further raise security concerns. The government is also worried that the uncertainty would lead to mass migration of minorities to India in the run-up to national election in Bangladesh, due on January 22.

Over a million refugees, mostly Hindus, fled into India after the 2001 polls that swept the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami combine to power. According to estimates by leading social activist and poet, Shahryar Kabir, more than 90 per cent of them remained in India.

The government is worried that a similar situation could unfold shortly. Mohammad Rafi, a scholar and member of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), probably the world’s largest NGO, documented rising instances of atrocities like rape, pillage, loot and murder, against minorities.

In his book, Can We Get Along, published last month, Rafi documented district-wise atrocities, with much higher percentages occurring against minority communities and talked of increasingly strained communal ties in Bangladesh.

This, according to Rafi, is primarily responsible for Hindus fleeing to India. A Bangladeshi diplomat in India dismissed suggestions of a communal divide and said the issue of mass migration to India post election pertained to law and order and was not communal.

Even Begum Khaleda did not deny the migration, but denied they were communal in nature. “There are no Hindus or Muslims in Bangladesh. All are Bangladeshis,” she said.

The weekend alliance of AL and BKM has become a source of concern for the minority community, including the Hindus, who comprise 11 per cent of the population, a Dhaka-based diplomat said.

According to a former Indian envoy to Bangladesh, while the issue of illegal migration of minorities was worrying, the Indian government was waiting to see how the alliance would work. He said,

“There are three serious security concerns with Bangladesh.The first relates to insurgency, the second relates to Islamic fundamentalist groups and the third to illegal migration.”

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First Published: Dec 29, 2006 03:09 IST